Cruising looks set to become more expensive, with some lines starting the year with fee hikes and fears new regulations could drive up ship running costs.

In January, Norwegian Cruise Lines increased their room service fee by US$2 a day from US$7.95 to US$9.95,  while other lines like Celebrity Cruises increased its daily gratuities by US$1 per person per day across all cabins.

Gratuities for standard cabins are now US$15.50 per passenger per day, guests in Concierge Class and AquaClass cabins now pay US$16 and guests in suites pay US$19.

Celebrity Cruises includes all gratuities in their fares for Australian and New Zealand passengers. This works like an ‘automatic daily gratuity’ so Australian passengers will see an increase in their fares when making their booking.

“Taking effect January 6, 2020, a US$1 gratuity per day will be added the current automatic daily gratuity. Additional gratuities may be added at your discretion. Most importantly, it recognises the exceptional work by our onboard staff and crew to deliver unforgettable modern luxury vacations every day,” says the line in a statement.

But it’s not all doom and gloom – the experts at Cruiseco and Bicton Travel say you can still stretch your cruise dollar in 2020 and save.

The experts told Cruise Passenger that the cost of cruising can be broken down into four main parts – the cruise fare, onboard spending, transport and port spending.

While onboard spending, which is often an additional 34 to 42 per cent of your cruise fare shows signs of increasing, experts expect cruise fares to remain stable for the rest of 2020.

Competitive cruise fares

Cruiseco predicts that increased competition within different categories of cruising will help to ‘stabilise pricing’.

“We are seeing ever more specialisation within cruise – ships are no longer categorised by size but are now referred to in terms of the experience had onboard. For example, the previously referred to ‘small ship’ now encompasses categories such as Expedition, Luxury and Adventure cruising,” says Emma Mumford, Marketing and Communications Manager of Cruiseco.

“Within segments we are likely to see a combination of cruise lines which are purpose-built for the category and only operate within the category, as well as cruise lines who have adapted their offering to service the growth categories. The growing variety of offerings will help to stabilise pricing.”

Sail away from $100pp per night in 2020

Bicton Travel shares recommended starting budgets for a five to seven-day cruise and other tips to stretch your holiday budget in 2020.

“A good minimum budget for a contemporary cruise (such as Carnival, Dream or Royal Caribbean) would be $150-$160pp per night, however if your flexible with your dates you may be able to get it to closer to $100pp per night. So, a seven-night cruise for around $1,100 is extremely good value!” says Barry Downs, Sales and Marketing Manager from Bicton Travel.

“Stepping up to premium a minimum of $200 – $250pp per night would get you a great Holland America, Celebrity or similar cruise. Of course, these are based on inside cabins, we find the majority of our guests choose Balcony or Veranda.”

Mr Downs also recommends families with more than two children to look out for ships with dedicated family cabins that can accommodate the everybody.

“Holland America have introduced family accommodation on their latest ships and Carnival’s Vista, Horizon and Panorama offer family harbour staterooms and suites with exclusive access to a dedicated family lounge. Of course, most ships offer interconnecting cabins accommodating even larger families,” says Mr Downs.

He also recommends cruisers looking for a bargain to consider Asia, transatlantic, repositioning cruises and to take advantage of low airfares.

“Asia remains a good value cruise destination, with a huge variety of ships home ported between Oct and April. It’s not uncommon to grab a cruise deal at around $100pp per night. Transatlantic and repositioning cruises also always offer the best value for those who enjoy sea days,” says Mr Downs.

“Airfares to Europe are at historical all time lows! Making fly cruise holiday packages to Europe extremely good value. If you want to head to the Caribbean or Mexican Riviera, consider November as it is always low season for airfares and ahead of the northern winter rush to the Caribbean sun.”

There are also some concerns about rising vessel operating costs translating into higher cruise fares due to the new International Maritime Organisation global sulphur cap which came into effect on January 1, 2020. The new regulations require ships to reduce emissions using more expensive cleaner fuels or be fitted out with Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems (EGCS).

Majority of CLIA’s cruise fleet (68%) have already been fitted with EGCS to date which means that they are not reliant on pricier cleaner fuels while working to reducing emissions.